My Father's Brother

Submitted into Contest #64 in response to: Set your story in a Gothic manor house.... view prompt


Coming of Age Historical Fiction Fantasy

If you had asked me how I felt about my uncle five years ago, I would've shrugged and said 'He's alright, I suppose. " And that's really all he could be described as. Alright.

Owen Kesler was like most men in Yirk. For one, he drank alcohol like it was water. I couldn't name one who didn't, even if I tried. When they were happy, they'd bring out the rum and when they were sad, they'd do the exact same. And no one could blame them. What else was there to do? My father, aunt and their friends were all old and married. What else would my uncle do, but drink, dance, laugh and inevitably waste the last of his lonely days away?

There was a finite amount of options.

Yirk was a shitty town. And not even in the, much preferred, exaggerated way. Yirk was the shittiest of shittiest. The town two fields away from us, Elja, had just had a bloody war and even they were considered to have a better people and economy. Some had even gone as far as to call Yirk the 'Coward's Laying Place'. And it was true to some extent. Our town was infected with merchants, murderers, rapists, adulterers and traitors to the crown. For one to willingly give their lives to the shittiest place in the country, they had to be either foolish or desperate.

Or just desperate, more like.

I could not think of anyone foolish enough to believe that Yirk was a decent place. It was something that my uncle had ranted about many times when he was drunk out of his mind, or simply enjoying supper.

"If the king don't visit soon, it'll all go to shit. There won't be a fuckin' town to save. "

When I was little, I asked him why he wouldn't just leave Yirk if he hated it so much. His response left me feeling less than underwhelmed: "Why should I? I work hard. I pay my taxes. This is my fuckin' home and I'll be damned to leave my bloody birthplace! Besides, who will look after Molter? "

His words confused me and I pondered on them for a long time. My uncle hated the town he was living in, however, he refused to leave - and for a stupid bloody manor?

Granted that it wasn't just any manor. It was ancient and probably priceless. I could hear my mother's voice ringing in my ears as she scolded my uncle for not selling the place and taking his leave, but he was stubborn about it.

I knew that it meant a lot to my uncle. Molter was an heirloom given to Kesler when he came of age. My father often reminisced about their younger days when they would run through the dark, dreary walls of the manor. It was an old boarding house where past royals would lay their heads whenever they came through the town - although no more.

My uncle would always try to scare me with feeble ghost stories and made up legends. Like the one where he was reading in his bed as a little boy and there was scratching from below. He always reiterated every small detail. Like how his breathing quickened and his fists tightened. Details such as how he had decided that he wasn't going to check under the bed, certainly not in the night, but his book fell to the ground. He'd tell me how he was sure his heart had come to a standstill and how he reached down tentatively to pick the book up. Of course, as the naive five year old that I was, I shrieked in fright when I heard about the cold, bony hand that had grabbed him from where he would never wander again.

And then the story about the 'soulless orphan'. My uncle had ranted on and on about the little boy who sat on the staircase. It was a story that had scared me into always staying in my bedroom at night. According to my uncle, a young child would wander in his pajamas at the stroke of midnight. He was sure to tell me about the lost soul's dark, empty sockets for eyes; he would always remain on the bottom step. I heard my uncle preach about his ventures into the night to see the little boy. When I asked why he would purposely leave his bedroom to go and see a demon of the night, he'd laugh and tell me that the boy would never harm him. I asked if he tried speaking to the ghost, or touching him. His eyes would darken and he warned me lowly:

" No. I've never ventured closer. He would sit on the bottom step and look at me and I would stay at the top, and look at him. You never go closer. "

And my uncle would leave me confused once more, although after I asked what would happen if he wanted a glass of water at night, my uncle's charismatic grin would return and he'd say, "I'd make sure to do that before midnight then. "

We would laugh together and he'd tell me more. About the transparent cook in the kitchen who would take small children from the forest and put them in his stew, for flavour he said. Or the gardener that would skew bypassers with his giant shears and then use them as fertilizer for the lily bushes. If I ever asked my uncle questions about these mysterious entities, he'd say that he was opposed to telling other people's stories.

The only way to properly tell a story was if you knew the villain's motive, he would chastise me over and over again. And so I asked if he thought these entities to be villains and he would laugh.

"No, 'course not, Nina! They're my lovelies! "

They never sounded lovely to me. I would recall the story about the pond that was situated in the backyard. There was a shitty, terrible woman. My uncle told me that her name was 'Frieda' and she had a horrifying habit of dragging her bloated body out of the murky waters and cutting the throat of whoever dared to fall asleep near the pond. For some reason, not even the cannibalistic cook scared me as much as this woman did.

My uncle whispered to me that he had only seen her once. My father's friend visited the house and they were all quite tired. Once my father left his friend to ask if he could sleep over, the friend had accidentally fallen asleep. It happened quickly. The bloated, rotting woman rose out of the pond and crawled her way to his strewn out body. She didn't need a knife or a sharp rock; she had used her razor sharp claws to cut his throat. He couldn't scream or move. It was as if he was put under a spell. He was dragged into the lake and my uncle said that he didn't know if he had died of blood loss or drowned. When he went to tell someone about what happened to my father's friend, they didn't believe him and so they assumed that he was missing.

The lady in the pond was the tale that scared me the most.


"Why would you tell me this now, when we're moving here? " Harald asked me, a small smile on his face.

I smiled back at him, "It's just so that you're prepared. " my teasing made him scowl.

"You're trying to scare me. " his eyes narrowed, but he still had a smile on his face.

"Perhaps. Who knows? "

He swatted me with a cloth and proceeded to look around our new kitchen, "Right. I suppose this is the ghost cook's kitchen? " his tone was snarky and I just hummed back a reply.

The mansion was just as dreary as my uncle had described and I would be lying if I said that I didn't second guess my decision to bring my husband here and raise a family. Although, there wasn't anything strange that stood out to me. The place was full of dust and grime.

"This place has been vacant for years. Should I check if there's anyone upstairs? "

I shook my head, "If there was someone here, they would've already left. God knows anyone would after hearing those stories. " I smirked at him whilst unpacking our few boxes of kitchen supplies.

Harald laughed loudly, "Yes. The only fools here, are us. "

"Indeed. "

I packed away the majority of our things, but I had to go on to the bedrooms. I knew that Harald was outside to make sure that there was no one on our property, so I jogged up the spiral staircase and checked all seven bedrooms, but the last one made me pause momentarily. This room had a giant bookcase on the far side of the walls.

I knew that this had to be my uncle's bedroom. After all, he loved to read and father would always mention how my uncle would brag about his extensive collection of stories. My eyes were immediately drawn to the bed, where a book with a green cover sat. I walked over and took a seat on the bed to read the cover, 'She Is Here'.

A horror, of course.

I deduced that my uncle's love of scary stories had been carefully honed over the years and I smiled. Yirk might be a shitty town, the shittiest town that, even I, may never leave, but we're happy. I was happy. And who knew, perhaps we were meant to stay in this shitty town - to make it less shitty. At least that's the excuse that I told myself. And that might've been what my uncle and father told themselves. But all was well and good and hopefully, this would be where my children called their home. A less shitty place in this shitty town.

Although, I gave up my hopes for a peaceful life with my family when I heard a scratching sound, from underneath the bed.

October 17, 2020 15:32

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Barbara Burgess
18:32 Oct 29, 2020

Hello Lesli, I enjoyed your story immensely. Well laid out. Good descriptions and good use of the English language. I particularly liked the opening and the closing paragraphs. I feel you have great potential as a writer. Well done!


Lesli Williams
17:35 Oct 30, 2020

Thank you so much! I'm really glad that you enjoyed it! 🤗😁


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.